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This information is taken from the booklet produced by The Local History Club in 1981.

The history of Dunmanway resolves itself into four periods; the first from early times to the coming of the Normans; the second that of the McCarthy domination; the third the period of foreign power down to the middle of the 19th century; the fourth from the middle of the 19th century to our own time. Thus wrote Jeremiah O'Mahony historian of West Cork, "The origin of Dunmanway is shrouded in the mists of ages; our knowledge of its beginnings is founded on conjecture, conjecture which is however supported by reliable data.

Anciently Dunmanway was included in the territory of the Ui Eachach, a branch of the Eoganachta for many centuries the dominant race in Munster. The district was held by this race whose descendants we style the O'Mahonys until 1254 when the McCarthys driven westward from the Tipperary district defeated the O'Mahonys and occupied the Bandon river district from Enniskeane to Drimoleague.  Thus the royal house of McCarthy came to their house in the west. However as Jeremiah O'Mahony tells us "not for many years after, did the parent family branch out into its sub-divisions when this district became associated with its own distinctive family or tribe called the McCarthy's of Gleann-a-croim".  This territory which varied in size accordingly as the fortunes of the chiefs ebbed or flowed included roughly the present parish of Dunmanway, with some townlands of Iveleary, Kilmeen,  Kinneigh, Drinagh and Bantry, It was about twelve miles from north to south and ten miles from east to west and it had two castles, at Dunmanway and at Togher. The castle at Dunmanway was situated on a bank of the town river on the left hand side of the present Castle Street. The site is still known as the Castle Bank.  The castle at Togher was built on the banks of the river Bandon.

The McCarthys who ruled Gleannacroim for nearly fourhundred years went out not in glory but in poverty. The lands were confiscated to the English crown in 1688.  The day of the Gael was over; the reign of the usurper had begun.

The 11,0614 acres in the parish of Fanlobbus with the exception of twelve acres of Glebe land at Fanlobbus which was left to the Protestant Parson, went to the Planters - Colonel William Arnopp,  Lord Kingston, Robert Meade,  Patrick Allen and William Parker. Later Philip Arnopp son of Colonel Arnopp sold his share of 2,932 acres around Dunmanway to one Richard Cox for £1,050.  

Later Richard Cox acquired further possessions and became the principal landholder in the district. Thus we came to what we might call the regime of the Cox Family in Dunmanway, which now to all intents and purposes became an English plantation.

Dunmanway Parish Map 1797

Dunmanway Parish Map circa 1797
Richard Cox:

Richard Cox was born in Bandon on 25th March. 1650. His grandfather came from England. His uncle bound him to an Attorney in Clonakilty, In 1673 he was made Recorder of Kinsale and through his acquaintance with Sir Richard Southwell, Secretary of State to King William of Orange, he was advanced to the position of Second Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, He fled from Ireland during the cause of James II but returned with William of Orange.  On 1st May 1691 he was appointed Governor of Cork.  His aim was to develop prosperous settlements of English throughout Ireland.  His influence with the Crown enabled him to get concessions that would not be granted to an ordinary planter. He saw that these colonies would have to depend on manufacture of linen, and one of his first official acts after being appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland was to get an English Act of Parliament passed authorising the export of Irish linen to the English plantations overseas.

Already on 2nd May 1693 he was granted Letters patent to convert the lands of Dunmanway where he wanted an English settlement with two fairs yearly on 23rd April and 15th November and a weekly market every Tuesday. Thus originated the town of Dunmanway. By 1700 Cox had no less than 30 families in his new settlement. Unlike his Bandon neighbour Boyle, Cox allowed Catholics to live in his town. Cox put great energy into his efforts to make Dunmanway a success. He moved the Church at Fanlobbus to the town, built a bridge over the Bandon river and made a road to Ballineen. He also established woollen and cotton industries. The new town does not appear to have developed as rapidly as expected and at the death of Cox in 1733 the town did not contain "more than 50 very indifferent houses, 12 not inhabited or by beggars only and 30 by people, who were for the most part poor and idle." Cox was succeeded by his grandson Richard who established the linen industry in the town and from then we can picture the rapid growth of the town. Smith tells us - " In May 1747 there were 87 houses with 87 flax wheels and 51 woollen wheels. By May 1749 the houses were increased to 117 and in all there were 226 flax wheels and 28 woollen wheels besides those of the spinning school." It was on 1st May each year that the wheels were displayed on the Green near the town and the day was spent in entertainment. One of the ceremonies was to choose the Master Weaver of the year. His reward was a good house rent-free for the next year.

Richard Pococke who visited Dunmanway in August 1758 left this account.

"The town consists of one street and some houses which are built for weavers by Sir Richard and of a return to the bridge over the river, which leads to a Green beautifully planted on each side of which are the houses of the labourers and others, and a quarter of a mile to the east a bleach yard. There are about 60 looms and spinning goes on sufficient for them. It is a most agreeable sight to see children employed in reeling even from 4 years old and such a general face of industry."

In 1798 a Mr. J. Atkins erected a tannery in River Lane. It was opened in 1800 and produced leather for bootmaking and harnessmaking and had a high reputation among buyers from many parts of Ireland. The manufacture of linen continued to flourish for many years but by 1835 there were very few looms at work. However the town was still flourishing. Since 1810 a considerable trade in corn had been carried on, a market was held every Tuesday and fairs chiefly for cattle were held 4 times a year in May, July, September and November. The town boasted two tanyards and two boulting mills – the latter capable of grinding annually 15,000 bags of flour, two to three smaller mills and a porter and ale brewer established in 1831 producing 2,600 barrels annually. The town then consisted of one long street extending about half a mile to the west of the bridge and contained 419 houses, which though indifferently built, were distinguished by an appearance of cleanliness and comfort. Several new roads leading to the town had been recently opened including a "fine and level line from Cork to Bantry."